Atelophobia describes the fear of imperfection and making mistakes. Although it can be debilitating, there are treatments and strategies that may help you.

Everyone makes mistakes, but how you handle it can affect your overall quality of life.

For example, avoiding certain tasks or situations because you worry about making mistakes can cause problems with your job or relationships.

Perhaps you find that you often fall behind on tasks, procrastinate, or avoid social situations where you might look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

If that’s the case, know that you’re not alone — many people deal with a fear of being imperfect. You can also rest assured that fear of mistakes doesn’t have to hold you back. You can seek treatment with a mental health professional or try strategies at home.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an irrational, intense, and often impairing level of fear or anxiety related to a specific trigger.

You can experience a phobia of almost anything. For some people, it may be related to failure. For other people, phobias may involve inanimate objects or situations.

Was this helpful?

There are many reasons why you may fear making mistakes.

For instance, you may worry that a mistake could cause material or work consequences or lead to judgment or criticism from others.

If you have unrealistic expectations for yourself and avoid situations so your flaws aren’t exposed, you may be experiencing atelophobia. Atelophobia is an excessive fear of imperfection. It generally involves fear and avoidance.

For many people, atelophobia can keep you from living the life you want to. You may be in a cycle of self-judgment and criticism where you don’t feel like you can live up to your own expectations. In some cases, the fear of making mistakes can significantly affect your life.

Atelophobia is a specific phobia, which is a form of anxiety disorder.

If you’re experiencing atelophobia, you may be prone to anxiety and depression. In addition, the fear of imperfection may cause problems with activities of daily living, as you may be too scared to confront situations where you worry about making a mistake.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that approximately 12.5% of adults in the United States experience a specific phobia at some point in their life. Avoiding particular situations often increases anxiety, making the fear more extreme.

Possible signs and symptoms of atelophobia include:

  • negative self-evaluation
  • feelings of not being good enough
  • persistent worry
  • burnout
  • judging yourself
  • setting unrealistic standards
  • anxiety or fear
  • sensitivity to criticism
  • low self-esteem
  • sweating
  • increased heart rate
  • shallow breathing
  • muscle tension

Is this perfectionism, impostor syndrome, or atelophobia?

If any of the symptoms above ring true for you, but you don’t experience severe or debilitating fear associated with these symptoms, you might instead be living with:

You may find it helpful to distinguish the difference between the three. A phobia entails such intense anxiety that someone will avoid their fear or any events that could present that fear, at all costs.

Was this helpful?

You can get better and reduce the effects of atelophobia by accessing treatment and using coping skills.

If you have atelophobia, there are many treatment options available.

Treatment involves similar techniques as the treatment of anxiety disorder or other specific phobias.

The first line of treatment recommended is psychotherapy. Research from 2018 suggests that specific phobia is the only anxiety disorder in which medication isn’t typically recommended.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for anxiety disorders like specific phobias. It can help you examine your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they relate.

Your therapist helps you examine any irrational patterns of thinking that cause you to feel stuck.

If you seek therapy for fear of making mistakes, you may also look for a therapist who uses exposure therapy techniques. In exposure therapy, your therapist will guide you through taking small steps to gain exposure to what you are fearful of in a controlled setting.

There are strategies you can try on your own if you don’t have access to mental health care. They may also work well as supplements to psychotherapy and medication.

Try mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness techniques may help you deal with atelophobia. These techniques are about non-judgmental presence and attention to the moment. They can help you reduce stress and anxiety and restore a sense of calm in your life.

For example, a 2015 study on university students with evaluation anxiety found that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques had several benefits:

  • greater self-acceptance in times of stress
  • a sense of calm in challenging situations
  • reduced feelings of shame
  • increased focus
  • new approaches to academic learning

This suggests that mindfulness techniques can reduce anxiety and help you feel calmer when you’re anxious.

Put your thoughts on trial

If mindfulness techniques aren’t for you, you can try challenging your thoughts.

Often, people with perfectionist tendencies are prone to distorted ways of thinking and may find it challenging to view reality accurately.

Try to explore if you have evidence to support your thought. Evaluating alternate perspectives can help you gain a more logical way of thinking.

Evaluate your boundaries

If you have atelophobia, perhaps you have too much on your plate. You may often take on more than you can handle and have difficulty saying “no” because you don’t want to disappoint others.

Having too much on your plate can increase stress, make you miss the small details, and further worsen your fear of imperfections.

Therefore, try to evaluate your boundaries and practice taking on less work or responsibility. This way, you may be able to feel more empowered and minimize fears of mistakes.

The fear of making mistakes, or atelophobia, is an extreme form of perfectionism. It can significantly disrupt your life and make you feel overwhelmed and shameful.

A significant symptom of this condition is extreme anxiety. It can cause avoidance of situations where you may look imperfect.

If you experience challenges due to atelophobia, you’re not alone. Starting treatment or taking steps to work through it can significantly improve your overall well-being.

Some treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. If you need help finding a therapist, consider using this find a therapist tool. You can also try research-backed strategies at home to reduce stress and anxiety.

For more information and resources on specific phobias, check out The Anxiety and Depression Association of America.